Well, nearly two full days with only one student sighting. We ran into Eliana with her host in the Muslim market, doing a little last minute shopping. Our day started and ended the same way, with a delightful visit to a tea shop just a few doors down from the school. We stopped in to check out the tea and were in for a treat. After discussing the attributes of various teas, with help from Ms. Li, our host for the day, we were invited into the back of the shop by the owner to sample some flower tea. He was a gracious host who just kept pouring. Eventually we had to tear ourselves away to get to the primary business of the day, some last minute shopping our own. We agreed to pick up our tea at the end of the day, rather than tote it all over downtown Xi’an.
After a quick breakfast (more than we could possibly eat for less than $2, total, for all three of us) and the relaxing atmosphere of the tea shop, it was a quick trip to the other extreme of human existence, Chinese traffic. Imagine a country with over a billion people, a rapidly growing middle class, and very little experience with driving. Now imagine a crowded city sidewalk with people streaming in both directions, ducking and diving in and out of the tightest gaps imaginable. Only in this case, instead of people on a sidewalk it is cars, buses, scooters, and bikes in the middle of the road. The lines mean next to nothing as our taxis regularly crossed the double yellow line into oncoming traffic in order to gain an advantage on the bus or Audi just ahead. Apparently the only rule is that if your nose is ahead, even by a few inches, you have the right of way. Just when you think you can relax, a scooter will be cutting across four lanes of speeding cars going the wrong direction in an effort to make a side street, all while dodging the ever present pedestrians in the middle of the street. Liberal use of the horn, and a fearless willingness to do whatever it takes, seem to be the only requirements for driving a cab in China. It is truly an experience that has to be seen to be appreciated, though it is not for the faint of heart.
Anyway, we survived the drive and had a successful day of bartering. Martha and Nora (Ms. Li) had lots of laughs as they exchanged shopping stories. The folks from Xi’an Foreign Language School are such wonderful hosts it feels as if we have known them forever.
As I said earlier, our day ended as it began, in our local tea shop. We returned to pick up our tea and were once again ushered into the back for another cup (several actually) of tea. This time it was green tea, a fitting end to a wonderful day and the perfect tonic for Xi’an traffic.